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Apple's ‘breakthrough’ – iPod or iWalk?

Take your pic of the pre-release rumours

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So is Apple's 'breakthrough' digital device called iPod or iWalk. Wired News claims it's the former, but little-known site SpyMac reckons it's iWalk and has the pictures to prove it.

Well, picture, singular. The snap shows a prototype that's a little bigger than a pack of smokes - handily place to the right of the device for scale (and, yes, that is a letter from Dell you can see tucked underneath it) - decked out in an iTunes/QuickTime Player-style metallic grey shell.

The device, the site claims, as a cross between a PDA and an MP3 player. Inside its clamshell case is a 512x256 colour LCD (seems a bit big to us, but we'll let that pass for now), 128-256MB of RAM. Power is provided by a Lithium-ion battery, connectivity by AirPort, 1394 and built-in 56Kbps modem.

There's no indication what CPU is being used - our guess would be IBM's new PowerPC 405LP, but that's based more on its suitability than any knowledge of Apple's choice - but what's really interesting is not only that it runs a cut-down version of Mac OS X - it lacks the Aqua GUI, for instance - but incorporates Newton technology for handwriting recognition.

Hmmm. That's certainly possible, but such a combination of technologies has been too long a stock part of the Apple rumour mill that we want to hear it from Steve Jobs before taking it as read.

The iWalk - if such is its name - can suck tracks from connected Macs or directly via the user's online iDisk. Apple will announce iTunes 2 tomorrow claims the site - the software's chief new feature is the ability to stream songs to the iWalk.

And just to keep true to those old 'Apple-developing-a-PDA' and 'Apple developing a Mac tablet' rumours, the iWalk contains full PDA functionality.

Such a device would certainly allow Apple to claim that its 'breakthrough' device isn't a me-too MP3 player, though there are shades of Sony's line of Clié multimedia PDAs here. And on the basis of the photo, Sony wins hands down when it comes to design. iWalk is clearly intended to recall Sony's Walkman brand, but it sounds a little too much like a codename for our taste, and we wonder if it's really iPod - a much more Jobs-style name - after all.

We guess we'll find out tomorrow - or sooner, if our Apple sources get in touch with the inside info. But SpyMac's item is an interesting one, even if it proves little more than a rehash of long-stale rumours. ®

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Apple to brief staff on 'breakthrough device' Monday
Apple to launch 'digital device' next week

Related Links

SpyMac: New picture of the iWalk
Wired: Apple's New Toy: Portable Music

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